Dear Mana Families:
Thank you for making time to fill out our school reopening surveys and sending me emails with your thoughts and concerns for the new school year. I appreciate your candid feedback, honesty and overall care, not just for your family but also for our staff and all Mana families. I have spent the last couple of months examining COVID-19 data and discussions internationally, nationally and locally. I have engaged in school reopening training and conversations with school leaders across the state and also nationally. In an effort to understand how to mitigate the risk for our scholars and staff, I have spent time with health professionals who are on the frontline of this pandemic, to consider different scenarios for safely returning back to in-person learning for our Mana scholars and families. I have worked closely with a team of our Mana stakeholders, which have included school board members, teachers, parents and staff. Finally, surveys were conducted amongst our Mana families and also staff members. The clear consensus from all involved has been to prioritize the safety of our scholars and staff which also extends out to the safety of our Mana families and communities.
Mana’s student demographic is predominantly Pacific Islander and Latinx, which unfortunately are the two communities hardest hit by this pandemic in the state of Utah. Recent data shows that our Latinx community accounts for 40.5% of Utah’s COVID-19 rates and that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders currently have the highest death rates and 2nd highest hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 of all race/ethnicities in Utah. This means that the way we approach the reopening of our school will look different from the rest of Utah schools because the severity of the challenges that we face places all of us at a much higher risk.
Therefore, after considering your feedback and those of our staff and health professionals, I have made the decision with the support of our school board and staff to prioritize the health and safety of our scholars, staff, and community by starting this school year with full online/remote learning for the first semester. This means that school will begin on August 24, 2020 fully online/remote and will continue that way until the end of the first semester on January 15, 2021. We will monitor our situation closely, if by the second semester, we find that it is safe to offer a blended program we will do so at that time.Please know that we miss our scholars dearly and want them back in-person and are committed to doing that safely when the conditions in our community allow for their safe return.
Next week, you will receive detailed information about what our online/remote learning platform will look like. Prior to the first day of school, we will be reaching out to meet with parents and students, conduct initial academic assessments, check out Chromebooks and other devices and address specific concerns from our Mana families. Please feel free to email me directly about specific concerns you might have about online/remote learning. Our goal is keep our scholars and staff safe, while striving to provide quality and effective remote/online learning as we navigate through this pandemic.
I want to thank all of you for caring enough about our school and scholars to provide me with feedback, which has been essential in the decision we have made as a school. I know that we all have differing opinions and that every family’s situation is different, but I have felt your deep love and commitment to our school and scholars throughout this process. Please know all decisions that we make as a school are informed by our commitment to the safety and well-being of our scholars, staff and families while also providing a quality educational experience whether online or in-person.
Lastly, please send our love to our scholars. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about them or wonder about how they are holding up during this pandemic. They are undoubtedly the heart of Mana Academy, they are the reason why education is still enjoyable in the midst of uncertainty and our commitment to them is what drives the work we do as Mana educators. We look forward to their return to in-person learning when conditions are safe.
Please continue to follow health and safety guidelines so that we can beat this pandemic quicker and reunite as a much stronger community and family. We are United, We are Family, We are Mana!
With much love and respect,